Category Archives: poem

On the Pulse of Morning by Maya Angelou

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,

But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words

Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,
A river sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more.

Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I
And the tree and stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow
And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.
The river sings and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing river and the wise rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,

The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the tree.

Today, the first and last of every tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.

Each of you, descendant of some passed on
Traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name,
You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca,
You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me,
Then forced on bloody feet,
Left me to the employment of other seekers—
Desperate for gain, starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot…
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru,
Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river,
Which will not be moved.
I, the rock, I the river, I the tree
I am yours—your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage,
Need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me,
The rock, the river, the tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes,
Into your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

Advertisements

Human Family by Maya Angelou

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.


Pangur Ban

Chickadee adores the movie Secret of Kells…and as kismet would make it, I ran across a blog post that reminded me of the true depth of its mythology references and imagery. The movie has sparked many a discussion on history, religion, and culture in our family. And, you know, its just beautiful animation and music!

The song is about the cat Pangur Ban (both kids want a white cat next, which they plan to name Pangur Ban…which thwarts my plan of Jellicle Cat and Pollicle Dog), and is Chickadee’s favorite song from the movie. Coincidentally (or not, I tend to think it was incredibly intentional), the kitty in the movie is named after the cat in a poem written by an unknown 9th century Irish monk.

Pangur Ban

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
‘Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

tr. attributed to Robert Flower, though I’ve not been able to difinitively source this
(here you can learn a bit more about the document where the poem was found)
(two other translations…I prefer the one by Eavan Boland)


Beware:
Ignorance
Protects itself.
Ignorance
Promotes suspicion.
Suspicion
Engenders fear.
Fear quails,
Irrational and blind,
Or fear looms,
Defiant and closed.
Blind, closed,
Suspicious, afraid,
Ignorance
Protects itself,
And protected,
Ignorance grows.

(from Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler)


The child in each of us
Knows paradise.
Paradise is home.
Home as it was
Or home as it should have been.

Paradise is one’s own place,
One’s own people,
One’s own world,
Knowing and known,
Perhaps even
Loving and loved.

Yet every child
Is cast from paradise-
Into growth and new community,
Into vast, ongoing
Change

(from Parable of the Sower, by Olivia Butler)


I taught myself to live simply

by Anna Akhmatova*

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my superfluous worries.
When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops
I compose happy verses
about life’s decay, decay and beauty.
I come back. The fluffy cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.

*If I were to name the greatest poets in the world, at the top of the list I would put Anna Akhmatova. I first read her poem Requiem (which made me cry) in an anthology of women’s poetry in the 8th grade…my mom was working on her master’s degree, and I would wander the library at the university while she did research.

Anna Akhmatova chose to remain in Russia when many of her contemporaries were leaving, standing witness to the atrocitites of the Soviet regime. Her poetry is a reflection of that time…the good and the bad, the simple and the simply tragic. This poem, is among my favorites of hers. And I think, perfect for this time of the year’s first waning.


a goddess dances for your freedom

…And as you fall forward and descend to the underworld

Your skin flying off the bone as you fall

Tidal waves of vital nourishment

for strangers you may never meet in this world.

They will love you nonetheless.

Silence, pregnant.

Anticipation,

Preparation.

For a revolution of rhythms

Returning to their original purpose with your every glance upon mundane things that are indeed holy.

You are falling, and you know it in your bones…

read the rest of the poem by samantha shay